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access point, wireless

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Definition: Wireless access points (APs or WAPs) are specially configured devices on wireless local area networks (WLANs). Access points act as a central transmitter and receiver of wireless radio signals including Wi-Fi. APs are most commonly used to support public Internet hotspots and also on internal business networks to extend their Wi-Fi signal range.

Access points on home or small business networks are small, dedicated hardware devices featuring a built-in network adapter, antenna, and radio transmitter. Wireless routers for home networks include built-in access point functionality as part of the device. Standalone WAP devices also exist for both home and business use.

Although Wi-Fi connections can function without access points in so-called ad hoc Wi-Fi or peer-to-peer mode, access points support Wi-Fi infrastructure mode. Infrastructure mode bridges the wireless local subnetwork with a wired Ethernet subnetwork and also scales the wireless network to support more clients. Older access points allowed a maximum of only 10 or 20 clients, but modern APs support up to 255 clients.

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Also Known As: base station

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